Duterte and Davao city media


After more than two decades, Davao city media can still stomach Rodrigo Duterte’s  long-winding empty perorations, to say nothing of the fact that his monologues do not hold much material for news. His last midnight press conference in Davao city last April 11 was characteristic.

If you want chismis, Duterte’s late night presscons are the place to go. Who does he vent his anger on now? Last April 11 it was name-calling Antonio Carpio, Bongbong Marcos and Anton Lagdameo. Who does he mock now to provoke media laughter? It was his allusion to Harry Roque’s “personality.” What does he lie about now? He lied that he had a gentleman’s agreement with Xi Jin Ping when in fact it was the Red Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that announced he indeed had. Who does he gaslight now? Instead of calling to task the Red Chinese MFA spokesperson for making a kiss-and-tell of his secret with Xi, he blames the sitting president. Whew!

The endurance of Davao city media for Duterte’s late night presscons is an incredible unfathomability. Even when a raging Paolo Duterte, right at the session hall of the Davao city council, had already name-called them in a most contemptible way, they reciprocate by rewarding the dynasts with ample media time. Perhaps there is no choice in this city where there is a pandemic of Stockholm’s Syndrome.

In September 2017, the vicious Duterte son was red furious: “Ang media bayaran. Bayaran! If you don’t respect me as a human being, why should I respect you? What right do you have?” (Media people accept money. They are hired people!).

Rodrigo Duterte is not a giant of world geopolitics. A pariah by world leaders can never be. They put him in place during world summits: shunned and snubbed for conversations. He remains the pygmy that he always was: boastful, narcissistic, full of hot air and hubris. It’s not the age (79) that makes him ignorant of the Philippine shoal in question. He doesn’t even know that the name is Ayungin. He says it was Ayunan. Then later he changes and says it is Alonan. It is his barangganic view of the world, catapulted only by his co-optation of social media that made him a giant among the uncritical minded Filipinos.

Pantaleon Alvarez, the only loyalist politician who stands by him now, sat beside him bored rigid and weary. He was reduced to a wallflower. But that is the fate of those who prostrate before him despite the failure and fiasco of the man.

The last few minutes of the presscon that had already ran for almost two hours was devoted at last to questions from the media. One of them was from the soon jobless propagandist Lorraine Tablang Badoy Partosa. She sounded forlorn. “We are suffering,” she tearfully told Duterte. Of course they are, those Apollo Quiboloy propagandists of SMNI that is on its way to a legislated revocation of its franchise.

Of course too this was deviant Davao city and the Quiboloy propaganda arm SMNI News Channel covered the presscon live. A law should be passed distinguishing propaganda (it manipulates from a single-sided opinion) and media (it informs and educates). The only silver lining that night was how her presence validates her tatay: that Duterte is closely intertwined with fake news. The two are inseparable and intersecting sets. But what about the rest of the Davao city media whose discourses of Davao city Exhibit A helped sway the troll-generated victory in 2016?

The media’s questions were perfunctory (meaning: unthinking) and morose. Each one was trying to go through the motions that this was an interesting presscon when in fact it wasn’t. The questions were far from publishing worth, certainly not of palatable reading for a public that needs to be informed and educated. Was it the food of Grand Men Seng Hotel that elicited them to come? And what else if we go by Paolo Duterte?

That night, even as the presscon was ending, there was an elephant in the room.

No one but no one brought up the name Mao Ning. No one but no one brought up the statement of this spokesperson of Red China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The Philippines denies the existence of the gentleman’s agreement reached with China under the Duterte administration,” said Mao.

No one but no one brought out the fact that this former president’s policy with Xi Jin Ping of “as is, where is,” as he coined it that night like a kanto boy, was actually mocked and disobeyed by his own cabinet subalterns. In fact, the BRP Sierra Madre had been repaired after the two friends’ tête-à-tête in Peking. Construction materials were transported by way of the boat Unaizah May 2. Steel plates and welding rods were brought over. Behind his back, even his own cabinet deputies treated the Duterte governance as a joke.

No one but no one brought up the fact that this aging former president of theirs was lying through his teeth. The elephant in the room was Red China, and the man meandering senselessly before them was a traitor.

And finally when it ended, there was applause. Was that a presscon?

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.